NAACP Urges States to Reduce Incarceration Spending, Focus on Education

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The NAACP has called on state officials across the U.S. to shift prison spending to education.

The organization said an upcoming report links incarceration rates with the nation’s poorly performing schools. In a report entitled “Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate,” set to be released on April 7, it is shown that in major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia, more than 65 percent of the lowest-performing schools are in neighborhoods whose populations have the highest incarceration rates.

Leaders of the study claim that over-incarceration deteriorates communities, and minorities are hit particularly hard.

“We need to be ‘smart on crime’ rather than ‘tough on crime’ and address soaring incarceration rates in this country,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said in a statement. “Failing schools, college tuition hikes and shrinking state education budgets are narrowing the promise of education for young people across the country. Meanwhile, allocations for our incarceration system continue to increase, sending our youth the wrong message about their future.”

The report's release coincides with the organization’s Smart and Safe Campaign, a program created to reform the nation's criminal justice system. The NAACP also plans to implement a billboard campaign to be displayed in airports around the country. The billboards will feature dramatic statistics about the nation's criminal justice system and will be featured in cities including Los Angeles, Houston and Philadelphia.

The NAACP report follows a 2008 study by the Pew Center which also uncovered the soaring amount of funds spent on prisons. According to “One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections,” the amount states spent on corrections more than doubled between 1987 and 2007 while spending on higher education has only moderately increased.

The Pew report also found that one in every 106 White men ages 18 or older is behind bars, but for Black men in the same age group, the rate is one in 15.